Native Wildlife Enclosures
The development of a wildlife enclosure has been proposed as an option for future uses of the site to complement the Stage 1 Development. The location identified as suitable (from the development planning perspective) for a wildlife enclosure is the low-lying western comer. It has been identified as being relatively quiet, having the highest amount of (altered) vegetation and being topographically well-defined by being set some 4 metres below the rest of the centre of the island.
This corner has a number of existing environmental constraints for development as an enclosure:
Operation of a wildlife enclosure falls within the Victorian Wildlife Act (1975). The commercial operator would require a permit as a Wildlife Displayer from DCNR. In order to satisfy the high standards of wildlife display and management, any enclosure would have the following requirements:
- it is approximately 0.6 ha in area including areas outside the perimeter mounds (approximately 0.3 ha in area inside perimeter mounds) - a relatively small area for development particularly for moderate to large sized mammal species.
- it is within the area inundated in peak flood flows
Use of native mammal species have been previously discussed as attractive from the perspective of maximising the tourist potential of any enclosure. This presents a number of difficulties for development of an effective enclosure on the island:
- full-time staffing arnounting to 2-3 keepers allocated with responsibility for care of the animals
- access to 24 hr veterinary services
- adequate security fencing and monitoring to prevent members of the public gaining access to the enclosure. Given the ready availability for access to the island from all sides, this would require substantial fencing construction.
Although wildlife enclosures provide a forum for environmental education, in general they have no significant conservation benefit except in cases where they form part of a captive breeding program for regionally restricted, or threatened species. If a future enclosure at Herring Island were to fulfil such a function, a co-operative relationship with an established institution such as the Melbourne Zoo or the Healesville Sanctuary would need to be sought.
- with the exception of the larger macropods kangaroos and wallabies) native mammals are on the whole nocturnally active and generally secretive, making them poor subjects for open-air day-time viewing. Some viewing may be possible at dawn and dusk.
- sound levels at the site are high due to the proximity of two major roads on adjacent banks of the river. These sound levels may cause significant disturbance stress to some species particularly irregular and sporadic noise events (e.g. sirens, collisions, backfiring) (in general, animals become habituated to regular sound levels as long as they are not associated with actual danger). These sound levels may also reduce visitor enjoyment of a wildlife enclosure facility.
light levels are high at night due to direct and reflected light from adjacent roads and urban areas. These light levels create suboptimal habitat for nocturnal mammals.
The following species are subject to decline in the Melbourne region and are species which would once have occurred in the local area. These species may be considered further if a wildlife enclosure is to contribute to species conservation in the region:
A number of constraints to development of part of Herring island as a wildlife enclosure have been identified above, raising doubt as to the viability of this development for the island. The viability of a wildlife display development on Herring Island and the identification of which subject species may be suitable requires further investigation. Melbourne Parks and Waterways will he consulting with experts at the Melbourne Zoological Gardens to resolve these outstanding, issues.
Common Wombat - closest natural populations upstream of Westerfolds Park in the Yarra Valley. Appears to be returning naturally to bushland corridors in urban areas.
Southern Brown Bandicoot - closest natural populations possibly at Cranbourne, although until recently it survived in areas as close as Springvale. Once common, and widespread but now definitely in a state of decline throughout the region and possibly throughout its range.
Platypus - closest recent sightings upstream of Westerfolds Park in the Yarra River. Persists in some urban streams and creeks.